One of Hong Kong rugby's most respected architects of the sport is heading back home after more than a decade.
Dai Rees, the Hong Kong Rugby Union's chief rugby officer, will be returning to Shrewsbury, England, which is the hometown of his wife Sarah.
Rees helped take Hong Kong rugby to new heights with the men's 15s squad coming within a win of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, the men's sevens one win away from the World Rugby's Sevens Series while the,women's 15s squad reached the 2017 Rugby World Cup in Ireland. Also during his tenure, there was a gold medal for the men's sevens teams at the 2018 Asian Games over arch rivals Japan.
"My life's purpose and vision continues to 'revolve'," said Rees, who will officially leave the HKRU on July 1.
"I started my career as a teacher and later moved into senior management as a college principal. As a strategic manager, I missed the interaction with people that I had when I was teaching and coaching, and with the support of my family, decided to take up a career in full-time coaching with Newport Gwent Dragons and Wales before moving to HKRU."
Rees leaves the sport's governing body after 12 years and as arguably one of its most successful coaches. Since arriving in 2008 to coach the men's 15s squad, he went on to coach the men's sevens team before taking on roles as head of technical development and performance rugby, and the general manager of rugby performance and development.
He was appointed HKRU's chief rugby operations officer in 2017 and HKRU chief executive officer Robbie McRobbie said his shoes would be hard to fill.
"The HKRU and our thriving local rugby community owe a great debt to Dai for his dedication and commitment," said McRobbie. "His tenure has coincided with some of Hong Kong rugby's biggest milestones and we are thankful for the impact he has had on the Union and the game. Dai will be missed greatly by the players and staff at the Union and while we regret losing him at this time, we wish him the very best in his future endeavours."
Rees mentioned a number of people in his parting remarks.
"In my early coaching roles, I was fortunate to forge lifelong relationships with administrators and coaches like Ivan Torpey, Nathan Stewart, Alex Gibbs and Justin Faulkner, and young players like Keith Robertson, Rowan Varty, Mark Wright and Salom Yiu Kam-shing. It's been a privilege to work with these young men in rugby and their careers beyond the game, and I consider them close friends."
The Welshman leaves behind a distinguished tenure with the HKRU which also includes leading the sevens squads to an East Asian Games silver, two Asian Sevens Series titles and an Asian Games silver in 2014, which helped pave the way for the sevens programmes to become part of the government's Hong Kong Sports Institute.
Rees said he will be returning to England to focus on the next chapter of his professional life.
"The next stage of my career is likely to be in education, at a school, or within an academy structure, which gives me an opportunity to reach young athletes at an earlier stage than in senior high-performance environments. It is vital that we nurture athletes at a very young age."
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